Players go through a range of testing at National Camps.
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There are a number of young golfers in the GA program, which includes a transitional program for rookie professionals. For the amateurs, it is tiered up to level one and tailored with the state elite programs. Each state has a national coach.
“For us, it’s about being heavily involved in the creation of the next batch of stars,’’ said High Performance Manager Matt Cutler, who works closely with High Performance Director Brad James.
“These are the players people want to follow, who they want to imitate, they create the interest. If you don’t get involved in that and nurture the brightest talents for the future, you risk leaving a void.’’
James wants to see his elite, young golfers earlier.
He cites the case of Perth junior and Australian Amateur champion Minjee Lee, a member of the Australian women’s team which finished third in the women’s world amateur titles in Turkey earlier in 2012.
Lee, 16, speaks highly of the program after three years in the system.
“I can’t explain how much it’s helped me,’’ she said. “It’s helped make me grow as a player. They provide services that really help with my development. It’s not just swing and technique. They help with psychology, strength and conditioning, everything that is connected to your golf. You can get help from any of the national coaches, they help with managing things and keeping organised. It’s not just one thing.’’
James said 12 or 13 was the best age to get a player into the system.
“That’s a great age to get someone in. They’ve been exposed to other sports, whether it’s cricket or football or tennis, they’ve got a fundamental base. From there we put an expert team around that player based on their individual needs. It’s a holistic approach, the physical, the emotional, the strategic the technical. We try to put all that in place over a long period of time and make sure it’s done properly so it has every chance of succeeding.’’
The State High Performance programs are the driving force behind the national program and Golf Australia is there to value add and work closely with those programs.
Players selected to join GA’s program are taken on overseas training camps and play in top international amateur events, funded by GA.
The program also has relationships with overseas training bases at golf clubs in Houston, London and Malaysia which offer players practice and playing facilities during stopovers or breaks in their international travel schedules.
The bases give players a guaranteed place to spend time working on their game when they’re away from home.
At home, they utilise the Moonah Links training facility on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
James is hell-bent on pushing Australian talent to the fore. “Australia has a great sports culture, a great culture of golf, a lot of outstanding athletes. We need the continued support from the Australian Sports Commission and the key stakeholders of Australian golf to accomplish a new level of elite golf in Australia."
“We should always be a top 10 power in golf. Obviously we have a small population compared to, say, the US and some of your Asian countries. They’re always going to have an advantage by numbers but from a cultural standpoint we have a bigger advantage. We have to work harder to go about that.’’
This is an extract from a feature which first appeared in the 2012 Emirates Australian Open Official Program